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BJJ for Old Folks
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BJJ for Old Folks

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You CAN be too old for some things.  For instance, if you’re in your 40s and you hang around in college bars, it’s just creepy. 

You’re too old for that. (This goes for you, too, ladies!)

You’re also too old to use the word “bae” or any other overly-young slang.  Guys, you can’t wear your baseball cap backwards anymore. It looks stupid. Ladies, those super-girly outfits need to go to Goodwill.  Trying to talk or act young just emphasizes how young you are NOT.

But there’s good news!  You don’t have to give up on life and start wearing black tube socks with sandals!  Even after you start getting invites from AARP, you’re still not out of place on the Jiu Jitsu mats.

The older grappler needs to be realistic.  If you’re starting Jiu Jitsu in your 30s or 40s, your dreams of becoming a world champion are just not realistic.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t become an impressive grappler.

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However, your approach to Jiu Jitsu needs to be different than that of your 20-something teammates.  You need to acknowledge your weaknesses and capitalize on your advantages.

One major disadvantage is your joints.  If you’re in your 40s, your joints have seen a lot of wear and tear—even 40 years of non-competitive, everyday use takes a toll.  You won’t last long if you literally fling yourself into your rolls with the wild abandon of a 20 year old. Your approach should be more sensible.  No flying triangles for you. Let the kids try that.

Use Ben Gay or some other joint cream.  And invest in some braces for your joints.  Buy some ice packs and keep them in the freezer for those rough nights.  But, most importantly, use them.  The best treatment for minor aches and strains is R.I.C.E.  That stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. It’s a cheap prescription, but you need to commit to treating those injuries instead of ignoring them.

And if the injury is bad enough, go to the doctor.  This is important for every grappler, regardless of age.  However, an older grappler should have enough sense to admit when an injury needs professional care.

It’s also important to take care of your joints by tapping sooner rather than later.  You’re not as flexible as you were as a kid, so be ready to lose the battle so that you can stay in the war.  After all, you’re never going to progress if you’re sitting against the wall with your arm in a sling.

Hopefully, all of this isn’t too depressing, because there’s also some good news.  You have clear advantages over those youngsters.

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One advantage is wisdom.  You’re not amped up on hormones like your younger teammates.  That makes it easier for good sense to prevail. You’re old enough to recognize when you need to see that doctor.  And your perspective allows you to tap rather than letting your pride get the best of you.

Most likely, you’ve also gained some focus as you’ve aged.  That means you can pay attention to the fine details that mean the difference between success and failure in Jiu Jitsu.  While your younger teammates might miss these details, your longer attention span and eye for detail give you an edge.

You’ve probably also learned how to deal with stress without freaking out.  Most of your younger teammates have little experience dealing successfully with stress.  You, on the other hand, have years of experience dealing with tough situations. This is a huge advantage.  After all, more than raw muscle, Jiu Jitsu is a thinking person’s game. If you can think through your options while getting crushed by a teammate, you have a better chance of escaping from those bad situations.  

Finally, as an older grappler, you know that time is a precious commodity.  You won’t waste it. You likely have a family, pets, a mortgage. You know that your time for hobbies or pastimes is limited, and you will take advantage of every minute.  Your younger teammates might choose a night on the town over an evening in class, but you won’t. Once again, advantage: you.

All in all, your game won’t be the same as that of your younger teammates, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a formidable grappler.  While flexibility, speed, and strength may be their advantages, your wisdom, focus, and judgement will give you clear advantages in the cerebral game that is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Get the old school edge! Check out Chris Haueter's DVD "Old School Efficient BJJ" and learn from one of the original US BJJ practitioners! Get it here!

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